Editor's Comment

Keep the pressure on smugglers

SMUGGLING is one of the most stubborn and persistent challenges that Zambia has had to grapple with for many years.
It is, however, heartening that the Zambia Revenue Authority has continued to put up a spirited fight against the vice through introduction of various strategies and initiatives.
A few months ago, the authority raised the bar on the fight against smuggling by suspending charging penalties on all cases and embracing a tougher measure.
While in the past only selected goods could be seized, it is now mandatory for all smuggled goods to be seized together with the vessel and forfeited to the State. This certainly is a strong message to those venturing into the illegality.
It is certainly an effective way to deter many smugglers who have been abrogating the law with impunity knowing that a penalty fee would easily get them off the hook without losing their goods.
It is, however, commendable that ZRA is taking a firm, no-nonsense stance in the fight against smuggling. ZRA is now working to establish fast-track courts at border posts to expedite prosecution of smugglers.
According to ZRA corporate communications manager Topsy Sikalinda, the infrastructure will be built on the Copperbelt, Eastern, Southern and Western provinces.
As rightly noted by Mr Sikalinda, the fast-track courts will not only help to expeditiously bring to book offenders but also deter would-be offenders.
With the persistence of smuggling, it is evident that there are some depraved individuals in society who are bent on perpetuating the vice provided it puts money in their pockets. These individuals have little or no concern about the devastating effects of smuggling on the economy and the country as a whole.
These individuals do not care whether the economy collapses because of being starved of the much-needed revenue through customs duty and taxes payable on imports and exports.
It is undebatable that if left uncurbed, smuggling can strangle life out of a whole economy.
It is also true that if ZRA, which is mandated to collect taxes on behalf of Government, fails to do so because some people have chosen to evade their obligations, then Government would be rendered ineffective in its delivery of essential services to the citizens.
It means government cannot provide clean water and sanitation services to the public.
It also means Government is incapacitated in terms of education and healthcare provision.
Without sufficient resources, Government cannot implement any development agenda for the benefit of all Zambians now and in future.
Smuggling affects local industries by distorting prices of commodities. If not halted, the illegality could also lead to production slowdown and subsequently mass lay-offs, reduced consumer spending, bankruptcies, and lower tax collection in terms of PAYE.
Furthermore, smuggling distorts trade figures because these illegal transactions are not recorded. In a country where smuggling is rife, the national image as a law-abiding and law-enforcing country is negatively affected.
All those perpetuating smuggling are enemies of progress and a danger to society and should be treated as such.
It is, therefore, commendable that ZRA is working tirelessly to ensure that the illegality is brought to an end.
There is no doubt that the establishment of fast-track courts will send a strong message that ZRA means business in the fight against smuggling.
It is also means offenders will no longer find comfort in lengthy court processes but will instead be handed the befitting punishment within the shortest possible time.
It is, therefore, hoped that every patriotic Zambian will take this fight seriously and provide leads to the authority on suspected smuggling.
Every citizen needs to be involved in the fight because when the economy collapses, everyone is affected.



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